Do home-educated children find the world of work harder?

What’s been said?

On 28 February 2018, BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour had a segment on home education, and asked whether home educated children find the “real world” harder. Guests were: Vickie who ‘unschools’ her daughter, Callie Vandewiele, who was home educated in the US and is now completing her PhD at Cambridge University, and Dr Helen Lees, Reader in Alternative Education Studies at Newman University in Birmingham.

By way of introduction, presenter Jane Garvey discussed numbers of home educators, home education law, and “types” of parents who choose to home educate. Dr Lees responded that while numbers are increasing, they tend to be in flux, as some children return to school. Dr Lees wanted to avoid stereotyping families who home educate, as reasons vary widely but settled for the definition that they are “parents who care about their children’s education very much”.

While the show was generally positive, the presenter brought up some of the misconceptions that many people have about home education:

  • Misconception 1: Certain subjects, such as maths, are not being adequately taught
  • Misconception 2: Home educated children are isolated and don’t have friends
  • Misconception 3: Home educated children can’t adapt to the world of work

All three guests explained articulately that despite home education looking quite different to institutionalised schooling, home educated children generally have a robust sense of self, an entrepreneurial spirit, and an ability to figure out what they need to know to get where they want to be.

The advantages of home education for SEND children was also discussed.

Why does it matter?

Home educators are becoming all too familiar with the misconceptions and stereotypes that are perpetrated by the media. As in this case, while the presenter seemed to keep an open mind, there was still an element of ignorance about how learning takes place, and an assumption that home education places children at a disadvantage.

It is quite common for people to talk about how home educated children need to be exposed to the “real world” yet ignore the fact that for approximately 6 hours a day, children in school are essentially captives within an artificial environment that doesn’t represent the “real world” at all. In contrast, home educated children are out and about, throughout the week, in a vast variety of settings such as groups, parks, libraries, museums, sports groups, music lessons, dancing lessons and shops.

While schoolchildren are segregated by age (something never experienced in the workplace), home educated children socialise happily with people older and younger than themselves, which is far more representative of “real world” interaction.

It’s important to take time to educate others on the benefits of home education, and the positive outcomes of young people entering the workplace.

What can I do?

Do what you can to promote home education as a positive and valid education choice, through conversations with people you meet, through blogging, and through social media.

Educate yourself by reading books and research about the benefits of home education (eg. Paula Rothermel’s research document) so that you are better able to educate others.